What is RSD/CRPS?

RSD or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy also called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a Chronic Pain Disease that plagues millions of people around the world. 

Symptoms of RSD include: 

  • severe burning pain
  • extreme sensitivity to touch
  • dramatic color changes and temperature in the effected area
  • skin sensitivity (sensitive to touch, sound,movement and sometimes even a slight wind)
  • pathological changes in bone(Osteoporosis and sometimes warping of the bone.)
  • excessive sweating in the effected area
  • tissue swelling
 "RSD also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), is a chronic, painful, and progressive neurological condition that affects skin, muscles, joints, and bones. The syndrome usually develops in an injured limb, such as a broken leg, or following surgery. However, many cases of RSD involve only a minor injury, such as a sprain. And in some cases, no precipitating event can be identified."
There is no known cure for RSD/CRPS but it was orginally described by Silas Weir Michell during the American Civil War, who is sometimes also credited with inventing the name "causalgia," which is the original name of RSD Type II
RSD/CRPS Doesn't Know Age, Sex, or Race. It can strike anyone. It effects Women more often then Men but that number is steadily increasing.

There are two different type of RSD/CRPS. Both share the same symptoms but Type II is when there is obvious nerve damage of some kind that can be tested by a EMG or a Electromyography. While Type I does not give a positive result for nerve damage when said EMG is done.

There are Four Stages of RSD/CRPS
(They are no longer used for the medical community.
They are merely guidelines and should not be used
for treatment or diagnosis of RSD/CRPS.
We keep them for historical reference.)
  • Stage One: Last anywhere from 1 to 3 months
Some of the characteristics are warmth, coolness, burning pain, edema, increased sensitivity to touch, increased pain, accelerated hair/nail growth, tenderness or stiffness in the joint, spasms, limited mobility, some bony changes may be visible on X-Ray or abnormal amount of pain for the injury. In this stage there is decreased sympathetic activity. Also if correct action is taken this is the stage where remission is most likely.
  • Stage Two: Last Anywhere from 3 to 6 Months

Stage two is called the Dystrophic Stage and can last three to six months. Pain is constant, as in stage one, and is throbbing, burning, aching, crushing in nature and is exacerbated by any stimuli. The affected limb may still be edematous, cool, cyanotic (discolored), or mottled (different shades). Nails are brittle and ridged. Pain and stiffness persists. Muscle wasting may begin.

Patients usually start experiencing short-term memory problems, as well as increased pain from noises and/or vibrations. X-Rays may reveal signs of osteoporosis. Patients may start to repeat themselves. In this stage there is increased sympathetic activity.

Some doctors will try and use tools such as x-rays, Bone Scans, thermograms, and others during Stage 2 and Stage 3 to confirm a diagnosis of RSDS. Understand that while these tests MAY show the presence of RSD, they are NOT conclusive. The only positive way of diagnosing RSD/CRPS is a physical exam by a doctor knowledgeable in RSD. These other tests should only be used as one of many tools to aid in that diagnosis. They are also useful in tracking the progress of the disease.

  • Stage Three:

Stage three is called the atrophic stage and can last an unlimited amount of time. Pain can increase or decrease, depending on the person, and the RSDS may spread to other parts of the body. At this stage irreversible tissue damage may occur. Skin becomes cool, thin, and shiny.

Contraction of the extremity may occur as well as atrophy of the limb (decreased joint movement). Skin atrophies (wasting away) and loss of movement or mobility may also occur. X-Rays may show marked demineralization and increased osteoporosis.

At this stage many RSD patients are not likely to be effectively treated with blocks as the percentage of SIP (Sympahetically Independent Pain) is now much greater than the percentage of SMP (Sympathetically Mediated Pain), meaning the majority of the pain signals are now originating in the brain and not at the original RSD site where a local block would help.

Pumps are usually discussed at this stage but there are other treatments available and more are coming all the time.

  • Stage Four

Most patients will never advance to Stage 4.

In this Fourth Stage, RSD is resistant to many forms of treatment and many Physicians would now recommend a Pump or a DCS/SCS. However, there are problems associated with the use of SCS units for RSD patients, even though they work well for other pain problems.

Also in this stage there is an involvement of the inner organs.

Always ask to speak to a Doctors before undergoing any type of implant, surgical procedure, or any form of treatment.

Talking to fellow RSD Angels helps but does not take the place of a Medical Professional.

 Educate yourself.

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